Amused To Death
Art is truly brilliant when it captures a snapshot of reality, makes us look at
it in new or insightful ways. The themes of this album capture the brash
exhuberance of the Post Reagan/Thatcher world. Amused to Death is a
lament for the collapse of progressive possibilities.
With bold strokes, Waters paints a picture many of us recognize as only
too real. Peace and love are childish, idealist mantras of the naive 60s.
Cold, calculating cynicism, selfishness and greed is the new, realist
morality of the youth. Socialism is dead. Untramelled, unrestrained
capitalism is triumphant. The market is God. War is entertainment. The
mass media is our opium, as it juxtaposes and blends together news,
entertainment, reality, fiction and propaganda, dulling our senses, inuring
us against suffering and war, innoculating us against critical thought. We're
all laughing even as we plummet towards environmental and economic
His lyrics are searing and comptemptous towards the forces that have
brought us here - and no one is spared - from the Americans' casual
indifference towards wars waged with smart bombs against anonymous
blips on the screen in distant lands ('Bravery of being out of range'), to the
bitter irony of Stalinists in China who, in the name of Mao and socialism,
turned their guns on their own people in Tianamen square ('Watching TV'),
to the hypocritical, debased, money-grubbing TV evangelists (What God
Wants) to a vicious (but hilarious) dig at Andrew Lloyd Webber's pre-
packaged pap (Its a miracle).
The title track is an obituary for a human race that has replaced decency
and humanity, caring and compassion, feeling and empathy with a
hedonistic culture of greed and consumption, of utter disregard of the
consequences of our actions on other humans and the planet. The so ng
shows us a bleak snapshot of the future where every last vestige of
humanity has been sucked dry, where we relate only to commodities,
human relationships are only of worth as economic transactions, and
where the distinctions have become so blurred we can't tell which is which:
"what is the heart life of color TV? What is the shelf life of a teenage
And it is all wrapped up in a operatic musical style Waters has been
perfecting since Dark Side of the Moon. With an architect's ear for
structure and form, and a poet's ear for melody, Waters creates an aural
landscape of vivid drama, quiet reflective valleys and climatic, towering
crescendos. All conveyed with a dynamism that sounds like raw emotion,
free-flowing and unrestrained, almost anarchic, on the verge of escape,
and yet, simultaneously, controlled with ruthless, exquisite, precision, down
to the list twinkle of a pin drop or timing of a voice-over.
Waters has also finally found the perfect musical and lyrical match for his
voice. Whereas he struggles with the earlier Floyd stuff, unable to match
the range that was Gilmour's forte, this album was made for his voice
(literally!). That grave, substantive, slightly gravelly voice is perfect for the
ambience it creates here. Its like the whole story is being narrated by this
wise, sad, angry father figure who looks down and shakes his head at the
mess humanity has created, alternately empathatic one minute and
shaking with rage the next.
18 years on and what is amazing is how Waters captured the zeitgeist of
the 90s and how prophetic this bitter sweet album was.
As a work of art it must rate as one of the great accomplishments of the
(PS I have to agree with another reviewer here, you'll never appreciate this
album unless you turn off the lights, lie down and LISTEN. The lyrics are
so evocative, the sound so realistic, the music so encompassing, the total
experience is so vivid, that you'll "see" it play out in your head. And no, I
wasn't stoned when I listened to it.)
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